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Rooftop solar projects: Ministry to pitch for tax rebate

According to reports, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) will take up the issue of giving tax concessions for individuals who put up rooftop solar projects, Tarun Kapur, Joint Secretary in the Ministry, told Business Line here today.

The issue was recently discussed by the Ministry after which it was decided that the matter would be taken up with the Ministry of Finance, he said on the sidelines of Renergy 2014, a renewable energy conference-cum-exhibition, organised here by the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency.

A number of experts from within and outside the solar industry have been pointing out to an iniquity in the tax system — when a business enterprise puts up a rooftop solar plant, it gets a tax-saving sop, ‘accelerated depreciation.’ However, when an individual gets a solar plant installed on his roof, he gets nothing.

Kapur said there was a huge demand for rooftop solar plants.

Answering a question, he said the subsidy dues the Ministry owes companies that put up solar rooftop projects would be cleared soon. (The government pays a subsidy of 30 per cent of the cost of the project. Approved plant vendors charge customers net of subsidies — it is their responsibility to collect the subsidy from the government.) Subsidy arrears for solar plants have piled up to about ₹300 crore.

Some of the dues would be cleared from the budgetary allocation ( ₹ 1,500 crore) the Ministry received after the last Budget. This is not enough, though. The Ministry has asked for ₹6,000 crore out of the National Clean Energy Fund — a fund that has been created by pooling the coal cess.

“This sector is growing very fast and there is a great demand for rooftop plants and solar powered agricultural water pumps,” Kapur said. The Ministry expects further allocations from the Budget that will be passed next month —some more arrears will be cleared. Apart from subsidy dues for rooftop plant, there are similar dues for water heaters (₹300 crore) and generation-based incentives for wind projects (₹150 crore), Kapur said.

Kapur said the public sector solar development company, Solar Energy Corporation of India, will come out with a tender in about a month’s time, calling for bids to build and maintain two ‘concentrated solar power’ plants of 50 MW each.

The plants will be owned by SECI — the winning bidders will only build them for SECI and maintain them. The projects will come in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

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